Working in tight time-capsules

Some of you already know this — I do a weekly braindump of ideas, notes, tasks, and other random stuff into my Evernote (notebook named) planner every Sunday. Without fail. It’s a great relief considering all that rummages in my mind, which is mostly a slush of random and specific things by Saturday night.

This strategy has helped me focus on the big categories I want to focus on: relationships, work, my bootstrapped business (coaching and training), sports training (powerlifting, kettlebells, jujutsu) and learning. And over the years I have realized one important aspect when it comes to productivity — you can’t do it all! Yet, I’ve spent countless years getting all stressed and burned out trying just that!

Accepting the fact that the most productive people on the planet focus on one day at a time is liberating. Because that takes off a lot of unnecessary pressure. Moreover, getting things done is more about quality than quantity. That’s why I don’t go beyond 6-7 tasks on any given day. And if I check off the top 3 from the list (which would be the most important tasks for the day), I’m golden! Crossing off everything would be a super productive day!

Besides the above strategy, I’ve found working within tight time-capsules the most effective way to stay focused and ensure that I cross off things from my list. Let me explain: it’s basically the Pomodoro technique for people who don’t like to fool around. Alright, no offense to the folks who follow who live (and die) by the Pomodoro, but I can’t work in 25-minute intervals.

So, here’s how I make it work:

1 capsule = 45 minutes

2 capsules = 90 minutes (duh! But it’s a double-strength capsule)

For mornings, I always go for a double dose because in most cases I am able to check off the top 3 important tasks in 90 days. In some days, I manage just 2 but that’s okay because I use the next capsule (a regular dose) to tackle the 3rd task. So, it looks like this:

Mornings: 2 capsules (90 minutes) + 1 capsule (45 minutes)

Afternoon: 1 capsule (45 minutes) x 3

Evening: 1 capsule (45 minutes) x 3

Total = 5 capsules or 270 minutes or 4.5 hours of pure productivity

You have no clue how much work you can get done in 4.5 distraction-free hours. A LOT!

The major benefit I’ve found is the visible progress I make. And the best part is that I don’t have to wait for months to see where I’m headed towards. It’s right there at the end of 45 or 90 minutes. You know if you’re going to nail it or not. Measuring short-term progress has a domino effect on the long-term goals that you have.

It’s damn motivating to start crossing stuff off your list. And more importantly, it just feels great to be productive and keep the momentum going.

This isn’t a prescription, just a system that works for me. It’s a blend of many productivity systems out there, only simpler since there are less moving parts. Some of my friends questioned why my first block has to be a double dose. My reason is pretty simple, you’re the most focused when you’re just starting work. And giving myself ample time without any distraction felt like a logical thing to do.

And mind you, I don’t check my emails during the first block. They come in during the first 15-minute break I take after “consuming” the first capsule (you were wondering about the breaks, right?).

Does it work every day? Not really. The capsules in the afternoon as always a hit or miss but that’s primarily because post-lunch is when I schedule (rather accept) most of the meeting invites and calls to clients/potential clients. But I am able to commit to the mornings and evenings capsules every day almost without fail.

All you need is a good pair of headphones, a software to block out Google Search (trust me, it’s a distraction), Amazon, Email accounts and Social Media, and some “Focus” music to get going.

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